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Don’t be too hasty to reopen country, consequences can be devastating – govt. MP



By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (5) said that the recent decision to call all public servants to return to work from this week should be immediately reversed against the backdrop of alarming situation at hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. “Let us not play politics. Several hospitals have declared an emergency situation as the daily caseload and deaths go up.”

Appreciating the ongoing drive to inoculate the population, lawmaker Cumaratunga however asserted that perhaps the decision to restore public service to pre-Covid level should have been delayed.

Hours after MP Cumaratunga’s statement, the government said that the circular issued pertaining to restoration of public service to pre-Covid status would be amended.

State Minister Prof. Channa Jayasumana assured parliament yesterday that pregnant women wouldn’t be asked to report to work.

The government cancelled all previous circulars to pave the way for resumption of public service last Monday (2).

MP Cumaratunga, who is also Chairman of Yuthukama civil society group, said that reports received from several hospitals in Colombo, its suburbs and the provinces were quite alarming and distressing.

The prominent public interest activist said that the government shouldn’t hesitate to take remedial measures if it realized a particular decision could cause a catastrophe.

“If we aren’t cautious, the whole costly exercise to restore normalcy can be affected. Therefore, immediate precautions are necessary. Restricting movement of public servants is a necessity,” the MP said, adding that though the government recognized the need to address teachers’ grievances, those protesting groups shouldn’t act in a manner that undermined safety measures.

A fresh major Covid-19 eruption could be quite devastating, the MP said, pointing out how the national economy suffered during this period. “We shouldn’t risk everything by re-opening the country, too, soon,” the lawmaker said. Having suffered unbearable losses, the national economy couldn’t take further blows, MP Cumaratunga said, while appreciating the decision not to present the Kotelawela National Defence University Bill on Friday (6) in the wake of continuing protests.

Cumaratunga stressed that Yuthukama too submitted amendments as it didn’t accept the Bill for obvious reasons. However, the MP cautioned those who had taken to the streets not to contribute to the epidemic. Referring to ongoing teachers’ strike, the MP said that the situation was so dicey that no one, whatever their political affiliations, could jeopardize current health guidelines.

MP Cumaratunga said that careful examination of the health situation was necessary and no one could act contrary to the advice given by health authorities. A delay on the government’s part to respond to what the MP called a worst case scenario could trigger a crisis that might cripple the country. Better to reverse the decision to speed up the re-opening process than causing the population harm, he added.

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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries



The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.


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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter



The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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